History, Legacy & Showmanship

A Million to One: Remembering “Rocky” on its 40th Anniversary

December 22, 2016 - 4:00 pm   |   by
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Rocky deserves to be celebrated first because of how it’s always made people feel: capable and empowered. Then there’s the fact that it’s also a cultural landmark. Rocky gave us the fanfare, the song, and the proper use of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s front steps.” — I, of the Tiger author Eric Lichtenfeld

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of Rocky, the award-winning and franchise-inspiring boxing classic starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular character.

Directed by John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid, Lean on Me) and produced by Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff (Raging Bull, The Right Stuff), Rocky showcased memorable performances by Carl Weathers as opponent Apollo Creed, Talia Shire as love interest Adrian, Burgess Meredith as trainer Mickey, and Burt Young as friend and Adrian’s brother Paulie. Nominated for ten Academy Awards (and winning three including Best Picture), the film made a star out of Stallone, featured Bill Conti’s rousing music, turned millions of moviegoers on to boxing, and created a newfound purpose for the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [Read on here...]

For the occasion The Bits features a compilation of statistics, trivia and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context; passages from vintage film reviews; a historical/reference listing of the film’s first-run theatrical engagements; and, finally, an interview segment with an esteemed group of film authorities and historians.

A still from Rocky (1977)

 

ROCKY NUMBER$

  • 1 = Box-office rank among films in the Rocky franchise (adjusted for inflation)
  • 1 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • 1 = Peak Billboard chart position for Gonna Fly Now
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1976 (legacy)
  • 2 = Rank among United Artists’ all-time top-earning movies at close of original run
  • 3 = Box-office rank among films in the Rocky franchise
  • 3 = Number of Academy Awards
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1977 (calendar year)
  • 6 = Number of sequels and spinoffs
  • 7 = Number of weeks North America’s top-grossing movie (weeks 10-16)
  • 8 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release
  • 10 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 15 = Rank among top-earning movies of the 1970s
  • 20 = Number of days of principal photography
  • 26 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
  • 36 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement (in a single-screen theater)
  • 52 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement (in a multiplex)
  • 78 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing films (adjusted for inflation)
  • $5,488 = Opening day box-office gross
  • $33,809 = Opening week box-office gross
  • $1.6 million = Production cost
  • $6.8 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $55.9 million = Domestic box-office rental
  • $107.8 million = International box-office gross
  • $117.2 million = Domestic box-office gross
  • $222.9 million = Domestic box-office rental (adjusted for inflation)
  • $225.0 million = Worldwide box-office gross
  • $430.1 million = International box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $467.6 million = Domestic box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $676.3 million = Domestic box-office gross (entire Rocky franchise)
  • $897.5 million = Worldwide box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $1.6 billion = Domestic box-office gross (entire Rocky franchise; adjusted for inflation)

 

A SAMPLING OF MOVIE REVIEWER QUOTES

Rocky is a movie overtly about a boxer, a stale jock in his decline, which is knee-deep in clichés without tripping over any of them. It is a simple story that is not simple-minded; it is a warm and human film with blunt emotions leavened by humor and above all, it is a totally derivative movie that manages to be original…. We live in a time that disparages heroism because there is no longer an accepted definition of it, and Stallone has been smart or, more accurately, sly enough to sense the gap that is left. He has filled it with earthy humor, poignance and decency and there is still enough of that around for Rocky to find the vast audience and success that it deserves.” — Desmond Ryan, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Rocky is a pugnacious, charming, grimy, beautiful fairy tale. A formidable accomplishment. One of the best scripts and performances of the year.” — John Simon, New York

“There have been a number of first-rate American films released in 1976, but none has combined, to the degree Rocky does, artistic excellence, emotional impact and a good, old-fashioned, romantic, happy ending. It is both gripping and up-beat — that rare bird which is a so-called audience picture and a so-called critic’s picture.” — John L. Wasserman, San Francisco Chronicle

“The climactic fight sequence is brutal and breath-taking — guaranteed to reduce even the most skeptical observer to a quivering fan. Even the most jaded preview crowds have burst into applause at the film’s closing.” — David Ansen, Newsweek

“Not since The Great Gatsby two years ago has any film come into town more absurdly oversold than Rocky, the sentimental slum movie…. Under the none too decisive direction of John G. Avildsen, Mr. Stallone is all over Rocky to such an extent it begins to look like a vanity production. His brother composed one of the film’s songs and appears briefly, as does his father, while his dog, a cheerful mastiff named Butkus, plays Rocky’s dog. It’s as if Mr. Stallone had studied the careers of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola and then set out to copy the wrong things.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“A lot of [the credit] goes to Stallone when he wrote this story and then peddled it around Hollywood for years before he could sell it. He must have known it would work because he could see himself in the role, could imagine the conviction he’s bringing to it, and I can’t think of another actor who could quite have pulled off this performance. There’s that exhilarating moment when Stallone, in training, runs up the steps of Philadelphia’s art museum, leaps into the air, shakes his fist at the city, and you know he’s sending a message to the whole movie industry.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Rocky is a glowing tribute to the human spirit. A wonderfully tender love affair. It’s the creation of a truly sensational new talent, Sylvester Stallone.” — Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News

A still from Rocky (1977)

“A delightfully human comedy that will undoubtedly wind up as the sleeper of this movie year. Packed with comedy, perception, and sensitivity, Rocky is a sincere, rousing film that raises the spirits and gladdens the heart.” — Judith Crist, Saturday Review

“Writer Stallone’s own acting in the central role is an expert catalogue of dese-dem-dose speech patterns and Adorable Bum mannerisms. At times his work is more like a nightclub routine than a complex characterization. But lovable he sets out to be and lovable he is, and you’d need a heart of granite not to be cheering for him when the bell rings.” — Clyde Gilmour, The Toronto Star

“[Rocky] gives the movie season a shot of adrenalin. As modern as today, it is nevertheless made like an old fashioned movie, with vitality and heart. A real upper in a year of downers.” — Bob Thomas, Associated Press

Rocky hits right on the button! Rocky seems as brilliantly orchestrated as a fine if raucous symphony…. Stallone’s own performance is a once-in-a-lifetime coming together of man and material…. Rocky got roaring, sustained, standing ovations the likes of which I can’t remember hearing at a movie before.” — Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times

“Although Rocky is a familiar kind of screen romance, in which a nobody gets a chance to become a somebody, watching the film is still an invigorating experience. For one thing, it glows with sincerity. It also introduces an outstanding performer, Sylvester Stallone, who has passed virtually unnoticed in earlier, not particularly noteworthy, pictures. Rocky makes a star of Stallone.” — Susan Stark, Detroit Free Press

“Despite realistic touches like Rocky’s apartment and his girl friend’s frumpy wardrobe, Rocky isn’t a realistic movie. The purpose is escapism, and the audience’s howls during a fight scene make it plain that Rocky appeals to the lurking punk in all of us…. Rocky, the Italian Stallion, is kind of hard to take seriously. What, for instance, is an audience to make of a black leather jacketed shakedown man with a fondness for turtles, goldfish and big, dumb dogs?” — Joel Clark, The Grand Rapids Press

“When it opened in New York and Los Angeles late last year, a low-budget movie about a small-time boxer called Rocky was widely heralded as the sleeper of the season. It has since been the subject of a phenomenal media blitz, won two major awards as the year’s best movie, and will undoubtedly figure prominently in the Oscar nominations. When it makes its local debut, Rocky won’t be a sleeper anymore, but if no one’s likely to be taken by surprise by its virtues, neither is there likely to be a significant post-hype letdown. The film is such an exuberant audience-pleaser that it’s practically hype-proof.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

“A great movie? Hardly. Stallone as the next Brando? You’ve got to be kidding. A nice little fantasy picture? Maybe.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“Sylvester Stallone will have to appear in some additional film before it will be possible to tell whether his performance is real craft or just an initial exposure to the actor’s charismatic reality.” — Tom McElfresh, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rocky is a winner. The movie is the kind of tight, rewarding and entertaining little movie that has kept the industry alive. Indeed, it may be a sign of the present desperate condition of the business that a good film like Rocky seems even better than it is. We’ve had so few genuinely engaging and human-scaled films lately that it shines more brightly by comparison. But, even if it has been overpraised in some quarters, a movie like Rocky deserves our best wishes for the clarity and honesty of its vision.” — George Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The story is achingly familiar, and the though Stallone has a certain power, he is certainly not the subtlest actor to crawl out from under Marlon’s overcoat.” — Richard Schickel, Time

“Not since Jaws has there been a crowd-pleaser like Rocky, where the pleasure can be gauged by the crowd’s audible response.” — Susan Stark, Knight News Wire

“The movie is a tremendous victory, not only for Rocky, but for its creator Stallone. Both serve as inspiration that the dream of America as the land of untold possibility and opportunity might not be so preposterous after all.” — Donna Chernin, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

“The film has brought a great deal of pleasure to many audiences, and I liked it a lot. But ‘liking it a lot’ won’t do; Rocky is a film which insists you must love it. The truth is, though, that Rocky manipulates its audience as clearly as any 1930’s movie that pops up on the Late Show. There’s nothing wrong with a film’s being manipulative (most of my favorite movies have been knowing, willing manipulators); but John Avildsen’s direction lets us see the strings once too often.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

“If you already thought boxing is the sport of barbarians, Rocky should do nothing to dispel the notion. If any notion is dispelled, it should be that they don’t make movies like they used to. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they make them better today than they did then. Rocky may be one of those times.” — Ted Mahar, The (Portland) Oregonian

“There are Marty overtones in abundance here, and that’s a strong commercial omen for the $1,000,000 gamble herein. The very best way to enjoy Rocky is not to examine it too carefully; better simply to relax and roll with the Walter Mitty, Cinderella, or what-have-you notion that the least of us still stands a chance of making it big.” — A.D. Murphy, Variety

A still from Rocky (1977)

 

THE FIRST-RUN THEATRICAL ENGAGEMENTS

The following is a (work-in-progress) historical/reference listing of the first-run theatrical engagements of Rocky in the United States and Canada. It is not a complete listing. The objective here was to cite the major first-run markets and principal cities of each U.S. state and Canadian province in which the film first played to illustrate the slow, staggered nature of (most) 1970s era film distribution and exhibition as well as to provide some nostalgia for those who saw the movie during the original release. A sprinkling of small-town and college-town engagements have been included, as well (even though they fall below the population threshold of this project), but understand these represent only a fraction of the thousands of total bookings throughout the many cycles of distribution over the course of the film’s release. The duration of the engagements, measured in weeks, is provided for some of the entries to provide a sense of the movie’s popularity.

For a few of the very largest markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) the subsequent release wave(s) have been included, whereas in most cases only the first booking in a given market has been cited. With a couple of exceptions, “moveover” continuation engagements have not been included.

Some liberties have been taken in regard to some of the generically named theaters (i.e. “Cinema,” “Cinema Twin”). Typically such theaters were located in shopping plazas and as such they have been identified in this work whenever possible by the name of the shopping plaza even if, technically, such wasn’t the actual name of the venue.

Regarding multiplex venues, effort has been made to identify the total number of screens in a complex (at the commencement of the engagement) even if in some situations a “complex” consisted of screens spread out among separate buildings or an expansion/renovation occurred during the run. Additionally, simplified nomenclature for the sake of stylistic consistency has been utilized for venue screen counts (i.e. “twin,” triplex,” 4-plex,” etc.) instead of retaining the (often inconsistent) individualistic usage of numbers or Roman numerals that may have been present in advertising or used on marquees. In cases where the film was screening in more than one auditorium in a complex, both engagements are cited but the numbers provided represent print numbers and do not necessarily reflect the auditorium number in which the film was playing.

In a few cases, the name of a location has changed since 1976/77 (typically due to annexation or incorporation) and such cases have been listed according to the city or recognized name at the time of engagement.

The chain names have not been included, and the work does not include any international or re-release engagements.

The release prints of Rocky were spherical 35mm with an intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and with standard monaural audio.

So…which theaters played Rocky on first release?

  • 1976-11-20 … New York (Manhattan), NY — Paramount (world premiere screening)
  • 1976-11-21 … New York (Manhattan), NY — Cinema II (9 weeks)
  • 1976-12-01 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — Plaza (20)
  • 1976-12-10 … New York (Manhattan), NY — 86th Street East (9)
  • 1976-12-10 … New York (Manhattan), NY — Murray Hill (9)
  • 1976-12-10 … New York (Manhattan), NY — State Twin (9)
  • 1976-12-10 … Totowa, NJ — Cinema 46 Triplex (#1: 6)
  • 1976-12-10 … Totowa, NJ — Cinema 46 Triplex (#2: 6)
  • 1976-12-10 … Woodmere, NY — Five Towns (6)
  • 1976-12-16 … San Francisco, CA — Regency I (15+)
  • 1976-12-16 … San Jose, CA — Century 21 (15)
  • 1976-12-17 … Anaheim, CA — Century 21 Twin (22)
  • 1976-12-17 … Cerritos, CA — Los Cerritos Mall Twin (8)
  • 1976-12-17 … Costa Mesa, CA — South Coast Plaza Triplex (40)
  • 1976-12-17 … El Monte, CA — Starlite Drive-In (15)
  • 1976-12-17 … Long Beach, CA — Los Altos 3-Screen Drive-In (8)
  • 1976-12-17 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Pix (26)
  • 1976-12-17 … Los Angeles (Studio City), CA — Studio (15)
  • 1976-12-17 … Pasadena, CA — Academy (22)
  • 1976-12-17 … Santa Ana, CA — Harbor Blvd. Drive-In (8)
  • 1976-12-17 … Torrance, CA — United Artists (18)
  • 1976-12-21 … Chicago, IL — Water Tower 4-plex (#1: 20)
  • 1976-12-21 … Chicago, IL — Water Tower 4-plex (#2: 20)
  • 1976-12-21 … McLean, VA — Tysons Corner 5-plex (#1: 27)
  • 1976-12-21 … McLean, VA — Tysons Corner 5-plex (#2: 22)
  • 1976-12-21 … Philadelphia, PA — Eric Rittenhouse Square Twin (#1: 18)
  • 1976-12-21 … Philadelphia, PA — Eric Rittenhouse Square Twin (#2: 18)
  • 1976-12-21 … Toronto, ON — Uptown 5-plex (52)
  • 1976-12-21 … Washington, DC — Avalon Twin (#1: 27)
  • 1976-12-21 … Washington, DC — Avalon Twin (#2: 15)
  • 1976-12-21 … Wynnewood, PA — Eric Wynnewood (21)
  • 1976-12-22 … Boston, MA — Cheri Triplex (27)
  • 1977-01-14 … Goleta, CA — Fairview (16)

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A still from Rocky (1977)

  • 1977-01-19 … Babylon, NY — Babylon (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Bay Shore, NY — Bay Shore Drive-In (3)
  • 1977-01-19 … Bedford, NY — Playhouse (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Brick, NJ — Brick Plaza Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Brookfield, CT — Fine Arts (14)
  • 1977-01-19 … Carmel, NY — Cinema Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Clifton, NJ — Allwood (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … East Brunswick, NJ — Brunswick Square Twin (18)
  • 1977-01-19 … East Hampton, NY — Easthampton Twin (3)
  • 1977-01-19 … East Meadow, NY — Meadow Brook (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Freehold, NJ — Mall Triplex (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Garden City Park, NY — Park East (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Greenwich, CT — Greenwich (15)
  • 1977-01-19 … Hackettstown, NJ — Mall Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Hanover, NJ — Morris County Mall Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Hazlet, NJ — Cinema Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Huntington, NY — Shore Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Jersey City, NJ — Hudson Plaza Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Long Branch, NJ — Movies Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Lynbrook, NY — Lynbrook (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Massapequa, NY — Jerry Lewis Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Monticello, NY — Mall Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New Rochelle, NY — Town (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Bronx), NY — Interboro (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Bronx), NY — Paradise Triplex (19)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Brooklyn), NY — Alpine Twin (18)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Brooklyn), NY — Brook (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Brooklyn), NY — Kingsway Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Manhattan), NY — 83rd Street Triplex (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Manhattan), NY — Columbia Twin (9)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Manhattan), NY — Greenwich (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Queens), NY — Cross Bay Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Queens), NY — Forest Hills (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Queens), NY — Meadows (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … New York (Staten Island), NY — Richmond (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Newburgh, NY — Windsor (12)
  • 1977-01-19 … Paramus, NJ — Route 17 Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Patchogue, NY — Patchogue (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Pearl River, NY — Pearl River (18)
  • 1977-01-19 … Plainview, NY — Morton Village (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Poughkeepsie, NY — Juliet (16)
  • 1977-01-19 … Rutherford, NJ — Route 3 Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-01-19 … Rye, NY — Rye Ridge (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Secaucus, NJ — Harmon Cove 4-plex (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Shrewsbury, NJ — Shrewsbury Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Smithtown, NY — Smith Haven Mall (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … South Plainfield, NJ — Middlesex Mall Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Suffern, NY — Lafayette (16)
  • 1977-01-19 … Toms River, NJ — Ocean County Mall Triplex (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Union, NJ — Union Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-01-19 … Watchung, NJ — Blue Star Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … West Orange, NJ — Essex Green Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-19 … Westport, CT — Fine Arts Triplex (15)
  • 1977-01-19 … Yonkers, NY — Central Plaza Twin (5)
  • 1977-01-21 … Berkeley, CA — Oaks Twin (23)
  • 1977-01-21 … Carmel, CA — Golden Bough (22)
  • 1977-01-21 … Citrus Heights, CA — Sunrise 4-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … Closter, NJ — Closter (5)
  • 1977-01-21 … Dallas, TX — Cine Twin (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Dallas, TX — Park Forest (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Fresno, CA — Movies 4-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … Fresno, CA — Sunnyside Drive-In
  • 1977-01-21 … Hayward, CA — Festival 6-plex (28)
  • 1977-01-21 … Houston, TX — Gaylynn Terrace
  • 1977-01-21 … Independence, MO — Blue Ridge 4-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … Las Vegas, NV — 1-2-3 Cinemas Triplex (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Leawood, KS — Ranch Mart 4-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … Oakland, CA — Century 21 (10)
  • 1977-01-21 … Palo Alto, CA — Palo Alto Square Twin (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Pleasant Hill, CA — Century 5-plex (#1: 48)
  • 1977-01-21 … Pleasant Hill, CA — Century 5-plex (#2: 23)
  • 1977-01-21 … Reno, NV — Granada Twin (25)
  • 1977-01-21 … Sacramento, CA — Century 5-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … San Mateo, CA — Manor Twin (27)
  • 1977-01-21 … San Rafael, CA — Montecito (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Santa Cruz, CA — Rio (21)
  • 1977-01-21 … Stockton, CA — Stockton Royal 4-plex
  • 1977-01-21 … Wayne, NJ — Willowbrook (5)
  • 1977-01-26 … Ann Arbor, MI — Fifth Forum
  • 1977-01-26 … Brockton, MA — Westgate Mall 5-plex (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Cicero, NY — Penn-Can Mall Triplex (24)
  • 1977-01-26 … Colorado Springs, CO — Peak (8)
  • 1977-01-26 … Dearborn, MI — Dearborn Entertainment Center Triplex (17)
  • 1977-01-26 … Denver, CO — Colorado 4-plex
  • 1977-01-26 … Denver, CO — Denver (The Pub)
  • 1977-01-26 … Denver, CO — U-Hills Triplex (#1)
  • 1977-01-26 … Denver, CO — U-Hills Triplex (#2)
  • 1977-01-26 … DeWitt, NY — Shoppingtown Twin (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Harper Woods, MI — Eastland Twin (17)
  • 1977-01-26 … Honolulu, HI — Waikiki Twin
  • 1977-01-26 … Lawrence, MA — Showcase 4-plex (17)
  • 1977-01-26 … Livonia, MI — Livonia Mall Triplex (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Modesto, CA — Briggsmore
  • 1977-01-26 … New Hartford, NY — Paris (21)
  • 1977-01-26 … Norfolk, VA — Circle 6-plex
  • 1977-01-26 … Palm Springs, CA — Village (15)
  • 1977-01-26 … Pikesville, MD — Pikes (22)
  • 1977-01-26 … Portland, OR — Bagdad Twin (14)
  • 1977-01-26 … Portsmouth, NH — Jerry Lewis Twin (21)
  • 1977-01-26 … Pueblo, CO — Pueblo Twin (14)
  • 1977-01-26 … Roseville, MI — Macomb Mall Triplex (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Sayreville, NJ — Amboys Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-01-26 … Seekonk, MA — Showcase 4-plex
  • 1977-01-26 … South Burlington, VT — Century Plaza Twin (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … South Portland, ME — Maine Mall Triplex (16)
  • 1977-01-26 … Southfield, MI — Northland Twin (22)
  • 1977-01-26 … Sterling Heights, MI — The Movies at Lakeside 4-plex (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Sterling Heights, MI — Showcase 5-plex (10)
  • 1977-01-26 … Stratford, CT — Stratford (16)
  • 1977-01-26 … Taylor, MI — Southland Twin (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Timonium, MD — Yorkridge Twin (22)
  • 1977-01-26 … Toledo, OH — Franklin Park Twin (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Waterford, MI — Pontiac Mall Twin (17)
  • 1977-01-26 … West Springfield, MA — Showcase 8-plex (20)
  • 1977-01-26 … Westland, MI — Quo Vadis Entertainment Center 4-plex (17)
  • 1977-01-26 … Worcester, MA — Showcase 4-plex (19)

A still from Rocky (1977)

  • 1977-01-28 … Atlanta, GA — Greenbriar Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Atlanta, GA — Lenox Square Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Birmingham, AL — Eastwood Mall Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Brighton, MI — Brighton Triplex (14)
  • 1977-01-28 … Carlsbad, CA — Plaza Camino Real 5-plex (23)
  • 1977-01-28 … Decatur, GA — North DeKalb Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Decatur, GA — South DeKalb Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Fall River, MA — Center Twin
  • 1977-01-28 … Gretna, LA — Westside Twin (18)
  • 1977-01-28 … Knoxville, TN — Capri 70
  • 1977-01-28 … Metairie, LA — Lakeside 4-plex (22)
  • 1977-01-28 … Montreal, QC — Loews 4-plex (25)
  • 1977-01-28 … Nashville, TN — Crescent (8)
  • 1977-01-28 … New Orleans, LA — Kenilworth Twin (27)
  • 1977-01-28 … New Orleans, LA — State Triplex (16)
  • 1977-01-28 … Orange, CT — Showcase 5-plex (20)
  • 1977-01-28 … Ottawa, ON — Elgin Twin (22)
  • 1977-01-28 … Peoria, IL — Westlake Triplex
  • 1977-01-28 … Richmond, VA — Westhampton (20)
  • 1977-01-28 … Rockford, IL — Belford (8)
  • 1977-01-28 … Rockford, IL — North Towne Mall Twin (15)
  • 1977-01-28 … San Diego, CA — Campus Drive-In (15)
  • 1977-01-28 … San Diego, CA — Cinerama (8)
  • 1977-01-28 … Smyrna, GA — Cobb Center Triplex
  • 1977-01-28 … Windsor, ON — Capitol Triplex (20)
  • Rocky newspaper ad1977-02-02 … Albuquerque, NM — Los Altos Twin (34)
  • 1977-02-02 … Allentown, PA — Eric Twin
  • 1977-02-02 … Boulder, CO — Flatirons
  • 1977-02-02 … Buffalo, NY — Amherst Triplex
  • 1977-02-02 … Casper, WY — Rialto (4)
  • 1977-02-02 … Cheektowaga, NY — Como Mall 6-plex
  • 1977-02-02 … Claymont, DE — Eric Tri-State Mall Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-02 … Cincinnati, OH — Carousel Twin (27)
  • 1977-02-02 … Cincinnati, OH — Studio Twin (25)
  • 1977-02-02 … Columbus, OH — Continent 4-plex (32)
  • 1977-02-02 … Columbus, OH — Forum Triplex (#1: 23)
  • 1977-02-02 … Columbus, OH — Forum Triplex (#2: 13)
  • 1977-02-02 … Doylestown, PA — Barn 4-plex (23)
  • 1977-02-02 … East Hartford, CT — Showcase 5-plex (20)
  • 1977-02-02 … Edwardsville, PA — Gateway
  • 1977-02-02 … Eugene, OR — Valley River Twin (19)
  • 1977-02-02 … Fairless Hills, PA — Eric Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-02 … Fort Collins, CO — Aggie (7)
  • 1977-02-02 … Frazer, PA — Eric Twin (26)
  • 1977-02-02 … Harrisburg, PA — Eric East Park Center Twin
  • 1977-02-02 … King of Prussia, PA — Eric King Twin (21)
  • 1977-02-02 … Lancaster, PA — Eric Twin
  • 1977-02-02 … Leominster, MA — Leominster 4-plex (14)
  • 1977-02-02 … Little Ferry, NJ — Hackensack Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-02-02 … Louisville, KY — Showcase 7-plex (21)
  • 1977-02-02 … Montgomeryville, PA — Eric Triplex (19)
  • 1977-02-02 … Murray, UT — Fashion Place 4-plex (23)
  • 1977-02-02 … Penfield, NY — Panorama (29)
  • 1977-02-02 … Pennsauken, NJ — Eric Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-02 … Phoenix, AZ — Chris-Town 5-plex (29)
  • 1977-02-02 … Princeton, NJ — Eric Garden (15)
  • 1977-02-02 … Provo, UT — Pioneer 2-Screen Drive-In (3)
  • 1977-02-02 … Provo, UT — Paramount (3)
  • 1977-02-02 … Reading, PA — Eric Twin (19)
  • 1977-02-02 … Salem, OR — Southgate Triplex (10)
  • 1977-02-02 … Salt Lake City, UT — Highland 2-Screen Drive-In (6)
  • 1977-02-02 … Salt Lake City, UT — Trolley Square 4-plex (20)
  • 1977-02-02 … South Salt Lake, UT — Century 5-plex (26)
  • 1977-02-02 … Stratford, NJ — Eric Twin (21)
  • 1977-02-02 … Tempe, AZ — University Twin (23)
  • 1977-02-02 … Trenton, NJ — Eric Independence Mall Twin (19)
  • 1977-02-02 … Tucson, AZ — El Dorado Twin (15)
  • 1977-02-02 … West Seneca, NY — Seneca Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-04 … Augusta, GA — Miller (1)                       
  • 1977-02-04 … Baton Rouge, LA — Broadmoor Twin (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Baton Rouge, LA — North Park Twin (6)
  • 1977-02-04 … Biloxi, MS — Surfside Twin (15)
  • 1977-02-04 … Cedar Rapids, IA — Stage 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Charlotte, NC — Charlottetown Triplex (21)
  • 1977-02-04 … Chattanooga, TN — Brainerd Village
  • 1977-02-04 … Coral Gables, FL — Gables (17)
  • 1977-02-04 … Deerfield Beach, FL — Ultravision Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-04 … Des Moines, IA — Fleur 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Des Moines, IA — Sierra Triplex (21)
  • 1977-02-04 … Evergreen Park, IL — Evergreen Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Fort Lauderdale, FL — Coral Ridge Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-04 … Gainesville, FL — Royal Park 4-plex
  • 1977-02-04 … Greendale, WI — Southridge Triplex
  • 1977-02-04 … Hampton, VA — Coliseum Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-04 … Hattiesburg, MS — Broadacres 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Hialeah, FL — Palm Springs Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-04 … Hollywood, FL — Florida Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-04 … Homewood, IL — Diana Triplex (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Jackson, MS — Jackson Mall (18)
  • 1977-02-04 … Jacksonville, FL — Cedar Hills
  • 1977-02-04 … Jacksonville, FL — Plaza Twin
  • 1977-02-04 … Lake Charles, LA — Charles Triplex (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Lauderdale Lakes, FL — Lakes Mall 6-plex (#1: 22)
  • 1977-02-04 … Lauderdale Lakes, FL — Lakes Mall 6-plex (#2: 10)
  • 1977-02-04 … Little Rock, AR — Heights (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Madison, WI — East Towne Mall Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Madison, WI — Strand (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Mary Esther, FL — Santa Rosa Triplex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Merrillville, IN — Crossroads Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Miami, FL — Concord Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-04 … Miami Beach, FL — Byron (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Milwaukee, WI — Northridge Triplex
  • 1977-02-04 … Milwaukee, WI — Skyway Twin
  • 1977-02-04 … Monaca, PA — Movie World 4-plex (15)
  • 1977-02-04 … Monroe, LA — Eastgate Triplex
  • 1977-02-04 … Monroeville, PA — Showcase 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Montgomery, AL — Capri
  • 1977-02-04 … Niles, IL — Golf Mill Triplex (21)
  • 1977-02-04 … North Miami Beach, FL — Sunny Isles Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-04 … Northbrook, IL — Edens Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Oak Brook, IL — United Artists Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Oak Park, IL — Lake (7)
  • 1977-02-04 … Odessa, TX — Scott Triplex (18)
  • 1977-02-04 … Omaha, NE — Cinema Center 4-plex (21)
  • 1977-02-04 … Omaha, NE — Q Cinema 4-plex (20)
  • 1977-02-04 … Palatine, IL — Willow Creek (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … Pensacola, FL — University Mall Triplex
  • 1977-02-04 … Pittsburgh, PA — Chatham (16)
  • 1977-02-04 … Shreveport, LA — Shreve City (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … South Miami, FL — Suniland Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-04 … Tinley Park, IL — Bremen Triplex (13)
  • 1977-02-04 … West Palm Beach, FL — Palm Beach Mall 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-04 … Wichita, KS — Twin Lakes Twin

A still from Rocky (1977)

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A still from Rocky (1977)

  • 1977-02-09 … Alexandria, VA — Mt. Vernon Twin (#1: 18)
  • 1977-02-09 … Alexandria, VA — Mt. Vernon Twin (#2: 11)
  • 1977-02-09 … Annandale, VA — Bradlick (8)
  • 1977-02-09 … Arlington, VA — Arlington (15)
  • 1977-02-09 … Bakersfield, CA — Stockdale 6-plex (#1: 19)
  • 1977-02-09 … Bakersfield, CA — Stockdale 6-plex (#2: 4)
  • 1977-02-09 … Bedford, NH — Bedford Mall Triplex (15)
  • 1977-02-09 … Buena Park, CA — Lincoln Drive-In (7)
  • 1976-02-09 … Cerritos, CA — Los Cerritos Mall 4-plex (#1: 7 [15]) [moveover from Mall Twin]
  • 1976-02-09 … Cerritos, CA — Los Cerritos Mall 4-plex (#2: 7)
  • 1977-02-09 … Columbia, MO — Uptown
  • 1977-02-09 … Covina, CA — Fox Triplex (18)
  • 1977-02-09 … Dayton, OH — Washington Square
  • 1977-02-09 … Dubuque, IA — Cinema Center Triplex (18)
  • 1977-02-09 … Erie, PA — Strand
  • 1977-02-09 … Inglewood, CA — Century 2-Screen Drive-In (3)
  • 1977-02-09 … Johnstown, PA — Act Twin
  • 1977-02-09 … La Mirada, CA — La Mirada 4-plex (13)
  • 1977-02-09 … Landover, MD — Landover 6-plex (#1: 16)
  • 1977-02-09 … Landover, MD — Landover 6-plex (#2: 6)
  • 1977-02-09 … Laurel, MD — Laurel Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-09 … Lawrence, KS — Varsity (5)
  • 1977-02-09 … Long Beach, CA — Long Beach Drive-In (7)
  • 1977-02-09 … Los Angeles (Del Rey), CA — Marina Marketplace 4-plex (23)
  • 1977-02-09 … Los Angeles (Van Nuys), CA — Sepulveda Drive-In (7)
  • 1977-02-09 … Los Angeles (Woodland Hills), CA — Topanga Twin (10)
  • 1977-02-09 … Manhattan, KS — Campus (5)
  • 1977-02-09 … Milan, IL — Showcase 6-plex (18)
  • 1977-02-09 … Okemos, MI — Meridian Mall 4-plex (#1: 26)
  • 1977-02-09 … Okemos, MI — Meridian Mall 4-plex (#2: 13)
  • 1977-02-09 … Old Town, ME — University Twin (15)
  • 1977-02-09 … Oxnard, CA — Sky View Drive-In (3)
  • 1977-02-09 … Oxon Hill, MD — Oxon Hill (14)
  • 1977-02-09 … Riverside, CA — Tyler Mall 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-09 … Rockville, MD — Randolph Twin (#1: 20)
  • 1977-02-09 … Rockville, MD — Randolph Twin (#2: 20)
  • 1977-02-09 … St. Joseph, MO — Hillcrest 4-plex (15)
  • 1977-02-09 … Santa Fe Springs, CA — La Mirada Drive-In (4)
  • 1977-02-09 … Seattle, WA — Town (36)
  • 1977-02-09 … Spokane, WA — Garland (18)
  • 1977-02-09 … Springfield, MO — Petite Triplex
  • 1977-02-09 … Tacoma, WA — Tacoma Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-09 … Trotwood, OH — Salem Mall 4-plex
  • 1977-02-09 … Ventura, CA — Ventura (11)
  • 1977-02-09 … Washington, DC — Lincoln Twin (6)
  • 1977-02-10 … Carbondale, IL — Varsity Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-10 … Champaign, IL — Co-Ed Twin
  • 1977-02-10 … Springfield, IL — Esquire Triplex (20)
  • 1977-02-11 … Altamonte Springs, FL — Altamonte Mall Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-11 … Augusta, GA — Masters 4-plex (12)
  • 1977-02-11 … Bradenton, FL — Cortez Plaza Twin
  • 1977-02-11 … Calgary, AB — Chinook (18)
  • 1977-02-11 … Clearwater, FL — Clearwater 4-plex (21)
  • 1977-02-11 … Corpus Christi, TX — Cine 4-plex (18)
  • 1977-02-11 … Daytona Beach, FL — Bellair Plaza Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-11 … Daytona Beach, FL — Sunshine Mall Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-11 … Decatur, IL — Northgate Mall Twin (11)
  • 1977-02-11 … Edmonton, AB — Capitol Square 4-plex (19)
  • 1977-02-11 … El Paso, TX — Morningside Mall Twin (19)
  • 1977-02-11 … Fayetteville, NC — King Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-11 … Fort Myers, FL — South Trail Twin (7)
  • 1977-02-11 … Gulfport, MS — Hardy Court Twin (3)
  • 1977-02-11 … Hamilton, ON — Century
  • 1977-02-11 … Huntsville, AL — Lyric
  • 1977-02-11 … Lakeland, FL — Polk (3)
  • 1977-02-11 … Lincoln, NE — Douglas Triplex (20)
  • 1977-02-11 … London, ON — Century Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-11 … Merritt Island, FL — Merritt Square 6-plex (17)
  • 1977-02-11 … Mississauga, ON — Square One 4-plex
  • 1977-02-11 … North Palm Beach, FL — Twin City Mall Twin (11)
  • 1977-02-11 … North York, ON — Sheridan Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-11 … North York, ON — Town & Countrye Twin
  • 1977-02-11 … Ocala, FL — Ocala Twin (5)
  • 1977-02-11 … Orlando, FL — Orange Blossom Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-11 … Orlando, FL — Plaza Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-11 … Raleigh, NC — Valley Twin (7)
  • 1977-02-11 … Regina, SK — Capitol Twin
  • 1977-02-11 … Roanoke, VA — Tanglewood Mall Triplex
  • 1977-02-11 … St. Petersburg, FL — Crossroads Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-11 … Salina, KS — Sunset Plaza Twin (7)
  • 1977-02-11 … Sarasota, FL — Gulf Gate Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-11 … Satellite Beach, FL — Satellite (7)
  • 1977-02-11 … Scarborough, ON — Cedarbrae 4-plex
  • 1977-02-11 … Tampa, FL — Tampa Bay Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-11 … Tampa, FL — Varsity 6-plex
  • 1977-02-11 … Waukegan, IL — Belvidere Mall
  • 1977-02-11 … Winnipeg, MB — Capitol (20)

Rocky 35mm

  • 1977-02-16 … Albany, NY — Hellman (6)
  • 1977-02-16 … Altoona, PA — Logan Valley Mall 4-plex (13)
  • 1977-02-16 … Annapolis, MD — Playhouse (11)
  • 1977-02-16 … Austin, TX — Americana (17)
  • 1977-02-16 … Baltimore, MD — Carlton (17)
  • 1977-02-16 … Baltimore, MD — Charles (11)
  • 1977-02-16 … Billings, MT — Rimrock 4-plex
  • 1977-02-16 … Butte, MT — Plaza Twin (9)
  • 1977-02-16 … Colorado Springs, CO — Cinema 70 Triplex (18)
  • 1977-02-16 … Columbia, MD — Columbia City Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-16 … Connellsville, PA — Laurel Mall (7)
  • 1977-02-16 … Hagerstown, MD — Long Meadow Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-16 … Lexington, KY — Chevy Chase (11)
  • 1977-02-16 … Manchester, NH — Brandt Studio Twin (10)
  • 1977-02-16 … Morgantown, WV — Met (11)
  • 1977-02-16 … Oklahoma City, OK — Continental (17)
  • 1977-02-16 … Pasadena, MD — Jumpers Mall Triplex (19)
  • 1977-02-16 … Pittsfield, MA — Paris (12)
  • 1977-02-16 … Pocatello, ID — Starlite Triplex (11)
  • 1977-02-16 … Scranton, PA — Strand (14)
  • 1977-02-16 … Stroudsburg, PA — Sherman Twin (5)
  • 1977-02-16 … Tulsa, OK — Continental (17)
  • 1977-02-16 … Twin Falls, ID — Twin Triplex (10)
  • 1977-02-16 … Wichita Falls, TX — Parker Square Twin (3)
  • 1977-02-16 … York, PA — Delco Plaza Triplex (12)
  • 1977-02-17 … Iowa City, IA — Englert (9)
  • 1977-02-18 … Abilene, TX — Westwood (5)
  • 1977-02-18 … Amarillo, TX — Western Square Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-18 … Bloomington, MN — Southtown (18)
  • 1977-02-18 … Brooklyn Center, MN — Brookdale
  • 1977-02-18 … Charlottesville, VA — University
  • 1977-02-18 … Fayetteville, AR — Mall Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-18 … Greeley, CO — Wilshire Twin (11)
  • 1977-02-18 … Greensboro, NC — Janus 7-plex (30)
  • 1977-02-18 … Kenosha, WI — Lake Twin (10)
  • 1977-02-18 … Kitchener, ON — Lyric (11)
  • 1977-02-18 … La Crosse, WI — Cinema Twin (10)
  • 1977-02-18 … Lebanon, PA — Trans-Lux Twin (11)
  • 1977-02-18 … Lubbock, TX — Winchester (21)
  • 1977-02-18 … Memphis, TN — Malco 4-plex
  • 1977-02-18 … Memphis, TN — Southbrook 4-plex
  • 1977-02-18 … Oshkosh, WI — Time (10)
  • 1977-02-18 … Racine, WI — Capitol Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-18 … Roseville, MN — Har-Mar Twin
  • 1977-02-18 … Waco, TX — 25th Street
  • 1977-02-18 … Winston-Salem, NC — Parkway Plaza (10)

A still from Rocky (1977)

  • 1977-02-23 … Akron, OH — Akron Square 6-plex (20)
  • 1977-02-23 … Bennington, VT — Cinema Twin (9)
  • 1977-02-23 … Canton, OH — McKinley Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-23 … Cleveland, OH — Embassy (3)
  • 1977-02-23 … Cleveland, OH — Richmond (16)
  • 1977-02-23 … Cleveland, OH — Riverside (16)
  • 1977-02-23 … Cleveland, OH — Show Place (16)
  • 1977-02-23 … Cuyahoga Falls, OH — State Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-23 … Elyria, OH — Midway Twin (10)
  • 1977-02-23 … Indiana, PA — Manos (5)
  • 1977-02-23 … Jefferson City, MO — Ramada 4-plex (10)
  • 1977-02-23 … Lima, OH — Ohio (8)
  • 1977-02-23 … Mansfield, OH — Cinema World 4-plex (17)
  • 1977-02-23 … North Olmsted, OH — Great Northern (20)
  • 1977-02-23 … Northfield, OH — Northfield Plaza Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-23 … Parma, OH — Parmatown Triplex (20)
  • 1977-02-23 … Queensbury, NY — Route 9 Triplex
  • 1977-02-23 … State College, PA — Garden (5)
  • 1977-02-23 … Steubenville, OH — Hollywood Plaza (13)
  • 1977-02-23 … Washington, PA — Cinema 19 Twin (12)
  • 1977-02-23 … Waterville, ME — Cinema Center 4-plex (9)
  • 1977-02-25 … Arlington, TX — Forum 6-plex (18)
  • 1977-02-25 … Benton Harbor, MI — Fairplain Twin (9)
  • 1977-02-25 … Bloomington, IN — College Mall Triplex
  • 1977-02-25 … College Station, TX — University Square Twin (5)
  • 1977-02-25 … Evansville, IN — Carrols Twin (13)
  • 1977-02-25 … Evansville, IN — Washington Square Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-25 … Fargo, ND — Fargo
  • 1977-02-25 … Fond du Lac, WI — Retlaw (10)
  • 1977-02-25 … Fort Worth, TX — Wedgwood Twin
  • 1977-02-25 … Great Falls, MT — Fox (5)
  • 1977-02-25 … Indianapolis, IN — Lafayette Square 4-plex (22)
  • 1977-02-25 … Indianapolis, IN — Norgate Twin (18)
  • 1977-02-25 … Indianapolis, IN — Washington Square Twin (17)
  • 1977-02-25 … Joliet, IL — Jefferson Square Triplex
  • 1977-02-25 … Lafayette, IN — Market Square Twin (#1)
  • 1977-02-25 … Lafayette, IN — Market Square Twin (#2)
  • 1977-02-25 … Lethbridge, AB — Paramount Twin (9)
  • 1977-02-25 … Mishawaka, IN — Town & Country Twin
  • 1977-02-25 … Mobile, AL — Airport Twin (16)
  • 1977-02-25 … Orem, UT — University Twin (14)
  • 1977-02-25 … St. Catharines, ON — Pendale Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-25 … San Antonio, TX — Laurel (22)
  • 1977-02-25 … Sheboygan, WI — Stage Door (8)
  • 1977-02-25 … Sioux Falls, SD — State (14)
  • 1977-02-25 … Tallahassee, FL — Tallahassee Mall Twin
  • 1977-02-25 … Vienna, WV — Grand Central Twin
  • 1977-03-02 … Cape Girardeau, MO — Esquire (6)
  • 1977-03-02 … Grand Rapids, MI — Alpine Twin
  • 1977-03-02 … Groton, CT — Groton Plaza Twin (12)
  • 1977-03-02 … Marysville, MI — Playhouse Twin (9)
  • 1977-03-02 … Riverdale, UT — Cinedome 70 Twin (15)
  • 1977-03-02 … Richmond Heights, MO — Esquire (19)
  • 1977-03-02 … Tuscaloosa, AL — Capri (9)
  • 1977-03-03 … Ames, IA — Ames
  • 1977-03-03 … Terre Haute, IN — Indiana (7)
  • 1977-03-04 … Alexandria, LA — Alexandria Mall Twin (9)
  • 1977-03-04 … Asheville, NC — Biltmore Twin (15)
  • 1977-03-04 … Chapel Hill, NC — Plaza Triplex (10)
  • 1977-03-04 … Columbia, SC — Richland Mall Twin (17)
  • 1977-03-04 … DeKalb, IL — Campus Triplex (13)
  • 1977-03-04 … Durham, NC — Northgate Twin (10)
  • 1977-03-04 … Fort Wayne, IN — Gateway Triplex
  • 1977-03-04 … Fort Wayne, IN — Southtown Mall Twin
  • 1977-03-04 … Greenville, SC — Camelot Twin (14)
  • 1977-03-04 … Kokomo, IN— Kokomo Mall Triplex (9)
  • 1977-03-04 … Missoula, MT — Fox
  • 1977-03-04 … Niles, OH — Eastwood Twin (13)
  • 1977-03-04 … Santa Fe, NM — Coronado Twin (10)
  • 1977-03-04 … Sioux City, IA — Plaza Twin
  • 1977-03-04 … Spartanburg, SC — WestGate Twin (11)
  • 1977-03-04 … Youngstown, OH — Liberty Plaza (13)
  • 1977-03-09 … Alamogordo, NM — Sands (2)
  • 1977-03-09 … Eau Claire, WI — London Square Twin (13)
  • 1977-03-09 … Midland, TX — Westwood (6)
  • 1977-03-11 … Anderson, IN— Mounds (9)
  • 1977-03-11 … Gadsden, AL— Cinema Twin (6)
  • 1977-03-11 … St. Cloud, MN — Paramount (8)
  • 1977-03-11 … Saskatoon, SK — Midtown Twin (11)
  • 1977-03-16 … Augusta, ME — Turnpike Mall Triplex (6)
  • 1977-03-16 … Fredericksburg, VA — Virginians Twin (8)
  • 1977-03-16 … Joplin, MO — Eastgate Triplex (12)
  • 1977-03-17 … Cedar Falls, IA — College Square Twin (13)
  • 1977-03-18 … Boise, ID — FairVu
  • 1977-03-18 … Charleston, WV — Plaza East Twin (13)
  • 1977-03-18 … Halifax, NS — Paramount Twin (10)
  • 1977-03-18 … Huntington, WV — Camelot
  • 1977-03-18 … Lafayette, LA — Westwood (11)
  • 1977-03-18 … Norman, OK — Cinema East
  • 1977-03-18 … St. John’s, NL — Avalon Mall 4-plex (7)
  • 1977-03-18 … Sikeston, MO — Mall (5)
  • 1977-03-18 … Sudbury, ON — City Centre Triplex
  • 1977-03-18 … Vancouver, BC — Capitol 6-plex (19)

A still from Rocky (1977)

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A still from Rocky (1977)

  • 1977-03-23 … Helena, MT — Circus Twin (4)
  • 1977-03-24 … Victoria, BC — Capitol (10)
  • 1977-03-25 … Brownsville, TX — North Park Plaza Twin (4)
  • 1977-03-25 … Harlingen, TX — Morgan Plaza Twin (4)
  • 1977-03-25 … High Point, NC — Martin Twin (4)
  • 1977-03-25 … Lawton, OK — Video Twin (8)
  • 1977-03-25 … Naples, FL — Kon Tiki (4)
  • 1977-03-25 … Port Arthur, TX — Park Plaza Twin (6)
  • 1977-03-26 … Myrtle Beach, SC — Rivoli (9)
  • 1977-03-30 … Beaverton, OR — Westgate Triplex (10)
  • 1977-03-30 … Flagstaff, AZ — Flag East (4)
  • 1977-03-30 … Gallup, NM — Aztec Twin (8)
  • 1977-03-30 … Hazleton, PA — Hersker (6)
  • 1977-03-30 … Highland, CA — Baseline Drive-In (4)
  • 1977-03-30 … Kalispell, MT — Liberty (2)
  • 1977-03-30 … Lancaster, CA — Antelope (4)
  • 1977-03-30 … Leavenworth, KS — Landing 4-plex (4)
  • 1977-03-30 … San Bernardino, CA — Central City Mall 4-plex (17)
  • 1977-03-30 … Santa Maria, CA — United Artists Triplex (12)
  • 1977-03-30 … Yuma, AZ — Plaza Twin (7)
  • 1977-04-01 … Albany, GA — Mall Twin
  • 1977-04-01 … Cerritos, CA — Los Cerritos Mall Twin (7 [22]) [moveover from Mall 4-plex]
  • 1977-04-01 … Denton, TX — Fine Arts (4)
  • 1977-04-01 … Latham, NY — Towne (10)
  • 1977-04-01 … Melbourne, FL — NASA (5)
  • 1977-04-01 … Panama City, FL — Florida Triplex (9)
  • 1977-04-01 … Rochester, MN — Northbrook Twin
  • 1977-04-01 … San Jose, CA — Century 22 Triplex (10 [25]) [moveover from Century 21]
  • 1977-04-01 … Wilmington, NC — Oleander Twin (7)
  • 1977-04-07 … Portland, OR — Rose Moyer 6-plex (17)
  • 1977-04-08 … Charleston, SC — Pinehaven Twin (12)
  • 1977-04-15 … Green Bay, WI — Bay (10)
  • 1977-04-15 … South Lake Tahoe, CA — Stateline
  • 1977-04-15 … Victoria, TX — Uptown (3)
  • 1977-04-20 … Saugus, CA — Mustang Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-04-22 … Danville, VA — Park (4)
  • 1977-04-22 … Galveston, TX — Galvez Plaza Triplex (6)
  • 1977-04-22 … Texas City, TX — Tradewinds Twin (1)
  • 1977-04-27 … Lancaster, CA — Jet Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-04-29 … Florence, SC — Crown (4)
  • 1977-04-29 … Las Cruces, NM — Video Twin (3)
  • 1977-04-29 … Loveland, CO — Orchards Twin (6)
  • 1977-04-29 … Stevens Point, WI — Campus (4)
  • 1977-05-04 … Milwaukie, OR — Southgate 4-plex (6)
  • 1977-05-06 … Battle Creek, MI — Bijou (5)
  • 1977-05-06 … Flint, MI — Flint
  • 1977-05-11 … Barstow, CA — Barstow Twin (2)
  • 1977-05-11 … Lancaster, CA — Lancaster 3-Screen Drive-In (2)
  • 1977-05-11 … Victorville, CA — El Rancho Twin (2)
  • 1977-05-13 … Anniston, AL — Cheaha Twin (2)
  • 1977-05-18 … Eureka, CA — State Triplex (10)
  • 1977-05-18 … Ocean City, NJ — Village
  • 1977-05-20 … Waycross, GA — Cinema Twin
  • 1977-05-25 … Barstow, CA — Skyline Drive-In (1)
  • 1977-05-25 … Palmdale, CA — Palace (1)
  • 1977-05-25 … Victorville, CA — Joshua Drive-In (1)
  • 1977-05-27 … Dartmouth, NS — Penhorn Mall Triplex (5)
  • 1977-05-27 … Galesburg, IL — Orpheum (5)
  • 1977-06-01 … California City, CA — Showcase (1)
  • 1977-06-03 … Columbus, IN — Crump (3)
  • 1977-06-10 … San Jose, CA — Century 25 Twin (10 [35]) [moveover from Century 22]
  • 1977-06-24 … Traverse City, MI — State (6)
  • 1977-06-29 … Anchorage, AK — Totem Triplex
  • 1977-08-14 … Fairbanks, AK — Goldstream Twin (2)

A still from Rocky (1977)

 

THE Q&A

Leger Grindon is the author of Knockout: The Boxer and Boxing in American Cinema (University of Mississippi Press, 2011). He is a professor of film studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. His other books include The Hollywood Romantic Comedy: Conventions, History, Controversies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film (Temple University Press, 1994). Leger is currently writing a book on contemporary documentary film.

Leger Grindon

Edward Gross is the author of Rocky: The Ultimate Guide (DK, 2006). He is a veteran entertainment journalist who has been on the editorial staff of a wide variety of magazines, among them CFQ, Cinescape, Geek, Life Story, Movie Magic, Sci Fi Now, SFX, and Starlog. His other books include (with Mark A. Altman) The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek (St. Martin’s, 2016), Above & Below: The Unofficial 25th Anniversary Beauty and the Beast Companion (BearManor Media, 2012) and (with Joe Russo and Larry Landsman) Planet of the Apes Revisited (St. Martin’s, 2001). Currently Edward serves as Executive Editor of Empire Magazine’s empireonline.com/us.

Edward Gross

Eric Lichtenfeld is the author of I, of the Tiger, an in-depth study of the Rocky series published in The Ultimate Stallone Reader: Sylvester Stallone as Star, Icon, Auteur (edited by Chris Holmlund, Wallflower, 2014). He has taught or spoken about film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque, Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, Wesleyan University, and the Harvard School of Law. His other book is Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie (Wesleyan, 2007).

Eric Litchtenfeld

Cliff Stephenson is the producer of Sylvester Stallone: A Director in Action (which is featured on The Expendables: Extended Director’s Cut). He is the owner of Off the Cliff Productions and has produced Value Added Material for numerous DVD and Blu-ray releases, including The Hunger Games, Rambo (2008) and the Hannibal television series.

Cliff Stephenson

The interviews were conducted separately and have been edited into a “roundtable” conversation format.

--- 

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is Rocky worthy of celebration on its 40th anniversary?

Leger Grindon: Rocky has had a significant impact on contemporary Hollywood in 1976 and beyond. The success of Creed last year with a worldwide theatrical box office of over $170 million on a budget of $35 million is a testimony to its continuing drawing power. Rocky remains one of the most significant “sleeper” hits in modern Hollywood. On a budget of about a million dollars and a fairly simple plot the film won lavish critical praise and established a long series of big commercial hits. Low budget, independent filmmakers have been looking to Rocky as an example of a film that doesn’t need a big budget, glamorous stars or special effects to make an impact on an audience. The recent release, Bleed for This, is yet another low budget child of Rocky…. Rocky is a film that addresses the sensibility of the frustrated, embattled white working class man and woman who only a few weeks ago made Donald Trump President. Paulie is an important character in developing this vision of working class life. In that sense it still speaks vividly to the conflicts and tensions in today’s America.

Edward Gross: When you think of enduring franchises, usually it’s things like James Bond, Star Wars, Star Trek. But a low budget movie about a boxer looking for his shot in life? And which remains so relevant all these decades later, even being reborn in the form of Creed? How is something like that not worthy of celebration? The story of Rocky touched audiences four decades ago and continues to do so today. 

Eric Lichtenfeld: Rocky deserves to be celebrated first because of how it’s always made people feel: capable and empowered. Then there’s the fact that it’s also a cultural landmark. Rocky gave us the fanfare, the song, and the proper use of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s front steps — and for better or worse, the sequels. Rocky is a classic in its own right, but it’s also the cornerstone of a franchise that helped define an important period in American culture, a period that formed many of the film people I know.

Cliff Stephenson: Rocky, on so many levels, is iconic. It’s transcended being just a movie and has become part of the fabric of our culture. Whether it’s lines from the movie or the Bill Conti themes, even if people have never seen Rocky, they know Rocky. Not many films have left as deep a footprint or created so many ongoing ripples as Rocky has. The character has been a staple in our lives fairly consistently for 40 years. You don’t maintain that popularity consistently over 40 years unless you’ve created something very, very special. 

Coate: Can you describe what it was like seeing Rocky for the first time?

Grindon: I thought the film was rather old fashioned in its style and emotions compared to the many more innovative films during the 1970s, such as The Godfather, Nashville or Chinatown. I didn’t see it immediately after it opened, but went after it was receiving a lot of critical attention, maybe even after the Academy Award nominations for the year were announced. I thought the film’s emotional impact was effective and the ending brought the movie to a rousing conclusion. However, I was offended by the harsh treatment of blacks, the latent racism, in the film, especially when Rocky loses his locker to an up and coming African-American fighter or when the black newswoman interviews Rocky. Of course, Apollo Creed is a thinly veiled treatment of Muhammad Ali. Obviously the later films in the series attempt to back off from this.

Gross: I was sixteen years old when I saw Rocky for the first time. Really just getting started in life, and that movie genuinely made me believe that anything was possible if — as corny as it sounds — you believed in yourself. Now granted it’s not the same thing as stepping into a boxing ring, but 40 years later and I’m at a point where I have spent the vast majority of my life working as a professional entertainment journalist, continuing to live the dream I had as a teen. And as a side note, when Rocky Balboa was released in 2006, I was 46 years old, at a very different stage in my life, and damn it if that film didn’t inspire me as well to believe in the road ahead. 

Lichtenfeld: I first saw Rocky so long ago, at such a young age, and have seen it so many times since, that I don’t remember what that first time was like. I’m sure I only really appreciated the outlines of it: the underdog, David-and-Goliath aspects of it. It was later that I saw how much more there is to the movie than just those mythic qualities — in depth, but also in breadth.

Stephenson: I remember seeing Rocky II in 1979 before seeing the original. The original I eventually saw on cable in the early 80s. Remember, Rocky was released at the dawn of both the home video and cable TV era, so unless it was in a release there wasn’t a way to see it easily. So, for me, seeing Rocky for the first time didn’t have that emotional impact that I’m sure it had on those who were able to see it in its original run. 

Coate: How is Rocky significant as a sports movie?

Grindon: Boxing films have a long history of being the most successful of sports films and Rocky is a vivid case in point. I think it is partly because of the focus on the single boxer and the limited, but intense drama in the boxing ring. The boxer’s agony and overcoming suffering is a central issue that exercises a strange attraction in boxing films. Furthermore, there is a distinguished history to draw upon from both literature and the cinema. There would be on Rocky without On the Waterfront (1954) and no On the Waterfront without Golden Boy or Hemingway’s Fifty Grand.

Gross: I am not a sports guy at all, but for me the significance of Rocky is that it didn’t matter. The boxing, albeit a highlight of the film, wasn’t its driving, emotional force. It was the love story between Rocky and Adrian, and the journey of this guy who just wanted to prove he wasn’t another bum from the neighborhood. Truth be told, and I’m not sure if this is common or not, that film did turn me into a boxing fan.

Lichtenfeld: It’s certainly thought of as one of the great sports movies — but I’m not sure that it even is a “sports movie” per se. It actually has less to do with boxing than a person might expect. There isn’t even that much boxing in the final fight! To me, Rocky is more like a drama and a portrait of a place and time that wears the clothes of a sports movie. Rocky doesn’t even get the challenge from Apollo’s promoter until an hour into the movie. I think that alone is a big tip-off that this movie isn’t really about what it might seem to be about…. In fact, most of the movie’s first half is taken up with Rocky wandering around a socially and economically depressed Philadelphia. To me, that makes it a lot like the neorealist movies that came out of post-World War II Italy — movies that used loose plots, lots of actual locations, and often times, an unpolished visual style to create slices of life against a battered socioeconomic backdrop. So I think Rocky can be categorized just as much in those terms as it can be in terms of the sports film genre, as strange as that may sound.

Stephenson: The interesting thing is that I don’t consider Rocky a sports movie. It’s a drama where the main character happens to be a boxer. Stallone’s genius, and why the series works so well as a whole, is that Rocky’s success or failure has really nothing specific to do with a specific sport. The drive to “go the distance” could be placed against a backdrop of just about anything and still resonate with audiences. Rocky could have been a race car driver or a business man or a politician and the underlying theme of endurance and pushing to get the most out of yourself would remain the same. It’s just that sports represents the cleanest through-line of going the distance. It could be about a spelling bee. That’s the power of Rocky’s storytelling.

A still from Rocky (1977)

Coate: Where do you think Rocky ranks among John Avildsen’s body of work?

Grindon: I think most people would agree that Rocky is his most successful film, but the author of this film is Sylvester Stallone.

Gross: Right below Rocky V. Kidding! It’s the top of the list for me. Many of Avildsen’s films have a Capra-esque quality to them — we’ve also seen it in things like The Karate Kid and Lean on Me — and when they work, they genuinely connect with the audience. But none of them have worked and remained as relevant as Rocky

Lichtenfeld: I haven’t seen all of Avildsen’s movies, but the ones I have seen don’t match Rocky — though the better-known ones followed Rocky’s template to one degree or another. The Karate Kid is the best example, doing everything it sets out to do very well. I haven’t seen it in about a decade, but as recently as ten years ago, it seemed to hold up. And it obviously inherited a lot from Rocky. It just didn’t inherit everything. In all fairness, though, I don’t know if any movie could. Rocky is just a nearly perfect convergence of story, style, character, performance, place, and moment in time — even if it wasn’t Avildsen who was solely or even primarily driving that. Rocky is just one of those lightning-in-a-bottle movies.

Stephenson: You know, Avildsen is an interesting director in that I don’t think he left much of a wake behind him. He was responsible for directing what are arguably the best (Rocky) and worst (Rocky V) films in the series. If you take out the Karate Kid and Rocky films, I don’t think most film fans could name five other movies he directed. I don’t mean that as a slight on him, but simply to point out that most of the films he chose to helm throughout his career never connected in the way that the original Rocky or The Karate Kid did. I watched Karate Kid Part II again recently, and I was struck by how uninspired it is. I always remembered it being good, but that was obviously a feeling clouded by nostalgia. But I think that speaks to Avildsen’s career as a whole... uninspired except for these two very specific lightning strikes. Again, this all sounds incendiary toward Avildsen; most directors could only dream of having two such hits on their resume, but I think this is a case where Rocky gave as much (or more) to Avildsen than Avildsen gave to Rocky. His early filmography showed promise, but he seemed to drift after Rocky into a career that never really found itself again. What Avildsen really brought to Rocky was this gritty underdog spirit that sort of permeated his early work. I think Avildsen’s real legacy will be the genius casting and creation of the original Karate Kid, but I think Rocky will always belong to Stallone.

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Coate: Of all the roles Sylvester Stallone has played in his career, where does Rocky Balboa rank (and in particular his performance in the original movie)?

Grindon: Clearly this was his performance of a lifetime in a film in which he is more genuinely the author, as screenwriter, lead actor, and inspirational source, rather than Avildsen. And, of course, he takes the role into a whole series of sequels. But maybe, as Creed and Rocky demonstrate, Stallone gives his best performances when directed by another.

Gross: He may have made an impression with Rambo, but he left his mark with Rocky. His performance as Rocky in that first film was so strong that it immediately convinced pretty much everyone that that’s who Stallone was. Obviously not the case — let’s not forget he wrote all six films in the series and directed four of them. Relatively speaking it was “easy” for him to slip back into the part for the first four sequels, but look at the nuance of his performance in Rocky Balboa and, then, in Creed. How do you not come away from all of that with great respect for the man and his skills? 

Lichtenfeld: Rocky Balboa is Stallone’s greatest role, partly because it is (or became) his most personal. And his portrayal of Rocky in the original film is the best performance he ever gave or ever will. That’s because the character more than just the righteous underdog of the sequels. Again, most of Rocky is not about that. The movie — and Stallone’s performance in it — is really about a guy who wants to connect with people more than he knows how to, about someone who just wants other people to really see him. There’s a sweetness and a biting loneliness that are mixed together inside Rocky, and Stallone brings it all out…. And then there’s Stallone’s sniffling! It’s a subtle device, but it’s really effective at getting you to sense the coldness of late-fall Philadelphia. Don’t discount that. It’s always special when movies make you feel their weather.

Stephenson: Rocky is Stallone. If he did nothing else in his career, he’ll be remembered forever as Rocky Balboa. The interesting thing about Stallone is that he’s the only actor in history to portray the same character in films spanning five consecutive decades. Stallone was also smart in that Rocky’s journey is a mirror for Stallone’s — Rocky: Young, hungry up and comer looking to escape his struggles and make his mark. Rocky II: Trying to deal with newfound fame and success. Rocky III: Getting a bit too absorbed and lost in your own hype. Rocky IV: Becoming a global icon. Rocky V: Trying to recover from that global explosion and strip it back to basics. Rocky Balboa: Finding relevance in a world that’s moved beyond you. Creed: Passing the baton and grooming the next generation. If you look at the films, they’re really metaphors for Stallone’s life and career at those points. I truly believe that what you see in Rocky is a pretty accurate representation of who Stallone was through those films. The original film had the benefit of Stallone being a relative unknown and therefore free of the baggage he brought into the later films. But, again, that baggage is what helped shape those other films.

A still from Rocky (1977)

Coate: The year 1976 was arguably a very strong one for the film industry. Did Rocky deserve to win the Oscar for Best Picture? If yes, why? If not, which film do you believe was the best from 1976?

Grindon: I think Rocky was a deserving picture with a well-organized plot and excellent performances. It also touched audiences intensely. From the perspective of 40 years later its commercial success and enormous influence is obvious. In my experience teaching the film contemporary audiences still enjoy the film immensely. Personally I prefer Taxi Driver among the nominees for “Best Picture” that year, but Rocky was an excellent film.

Gross: At another time, maybe not. The competition included Taxi Driver, Network and All the President’s Men. It was a pretty dark time in America, possibly best represented that year by All the President’s Men and its subject matter. America needed an escape from reality; it needed to believe again and Rocky provided them the opportunity to do so.

Lichtenfeld: If you’re asking about Network (since that was the movie that was really slugging it out with Rocky at the Oscars), then I think Rocky definitely deserved it. They’re different movies — Network is mainly a subversive, satirical look at a societal ill; Rocky is about people in their environments and in their lives as they live them. Personally, I think Network strays beyond satire and into parody; it’s a less consistent movie, and I’m always struck by how much more I’m invested I am in the first half than the second. But with Rocky, I’m engaged in everything equally…. Taxi Driver could also have been a contender (so to speak). And with its own use of locations, a wandering main character, and a plot that doesn’t fully announce itself until relatively late, it has a lot in common with Rocky. So between Rocky and Taxi Driver, which one deserved the Oscar for Best Picture? That’s easy — whichever one I’ve seen more recently!

Stephenson: On one hand I say no. I could make the argument that all four of the other nominees that year were as good or better movies in the broader sense, but with the exception of Taxi Driver, none of those other films have endured anywhere close to the same degree that Rocky has. So is the Best Picture the one that strikes the zeitgeist in the moment or the one that resonates and leaves ripples of influence far beyond the awards season? If you consider the best picture the one we’re still talking about and celebrating its title character now 40 years later... I don’t know if there is a better picture than Rocky for that or most any year. 

Coate: Compare and contrast the original “Rocky” with its sequels and spin-offs.

Grindon: Rocky is by far the best of the series. Creed from last year was a surprisingly strong film and probably the runner up to the original Rocky from among the series.

Gross: Rocky gets the credit for being the original, by packing such power on a low budget and by the conviction of everyone in front of and behind the camera…. Rocky II deserves kudos for feeling like a natural continuation and next chapter in the character’s life, though the schmaltz factor went up a bit there with Adrian’s coma…. Rocky III began to enter cartoon territory, but what a glorious “cartoon” it was. Pure entertainment with some heart, and a solid story for the Italian Stallion as he has to rediscover who he was while dealing with the death of Mickey…. Rocky IV is full-blown cartoon, cut like an MTV video, and for the most part lacks the heart of its predecessors. It’s also a ridiculous (especially in hindsight) tool of propaganda. The Russians wrap the American flag around Rocky’s shoulders? C’mon!.... Rocky V — the second you hear that Paulie was given power of attorney, it’s over. There is zero credibility…. Rocky Balboa is a return to the qualities of the original, Stallone pretty much making you believe that Rocky could successfully take this one last shot. Or so we thought…. Creed, while branching off from the main franchise, manages to maintain and modernize the elements that worked so well in the original, while introducing audiences to a new character to identify with.

Lichtenfeld: I never saw Creed in its finished form, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to judge. As for the others, Rocky II is a surprisingly credible sequel. Sure, it’s more melodramatic than the original and it has a much flatter visual style. (I attribute the latter to Stallone, as director and star, wanting to make sure there’s no ambiguity about where the viewer’s eye should be.) But Rocky II is moving and funny and feels like a natural extension of what came before. It satisfies the most basic criterion I have for a sequel: that it tells a believable story about what happened next to these people…. Rocky III is a grotesque freakshow of racism, narcissism, and redemption fantasies. Luckily, there is nothing — absolutely nothing, not a single solitary thing — going on in America’s current political life that should make that feel at all familiar. I mean, Rocky III is a movie where the villain is made to embody the most vile clichés of the stereotypical savage black man, and wear the iconography of the stereotypical savage Indian. And then the white hero vanquishes him while essentially wearing the American flag. This is a movie that should be on Steve Bannon’s Top Ten, right under Schindler’s List (selected scenes)…. Rocky IV is Rocky IV, and always will be. If you were to put a movie in a time capsule that captured the mainstream filmmaking and pop-culture vogues of the mid-1980s, Rocky IV would be a great choice based on its politics, depictions of conspicuous consumerism and excess, heightened style, and threadbare story. (It takes something special to kick off three music video sequences within ten minutes or so, the first set to a song called Burning Heart and the last set to a song called Heart’s on Fire.) It’s actually a little bizarre how Rocky and Rocky IV are so utterly different yet fundamentally connected. The fact that they belong to the same series could support the theory of a multiverse…. Thinking of Rocky V makes me feel a little wistful, but not because of anything in the movie. It’s because I remember how striking it was in 1990 to see a Rocky movie fail to connect with the public, and how strange it was to feel like the times had left this institution behind. It was the first time I felt that something from my youth had become irrelevant in the world and was now suddenly anachronistic…. Rocky Balboa was a great comeback. It captured the original’s heart and intimacy and sense of place much more than most of the other sequels had. To put Rocky Balboa in context, it belongs to a rash of real reboots: franchises that Hollywood dusted off and/or re-envisioned. After James Bond and Rocky in late 2006, there would be Die Hard, Rambo, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and even The X-Files, all within a few years. But Rocky Balboa was one of the first into the pool, and had to prove that it had credibility. Which it does. I loved seeing how Rocky Balboa won people back from their assumptions about how ridiculous it was going to be, and how ridiculous it was to have made it.

Stephenson: Rocky II carries all the same DNA as the original and it’s understandable that so many consider it a worthy sequel. It continues Rocky’s story while giving audiences the completely uplifting ending they were denied in the original. Rocky III is really the Mason/Dixon (coincidentally also a Rocky “villain”) line in the series. Rocky and Rocky II both have a small, almost indie dramatic spirit. Rocky III begins to diverge into the popcorn spectacles that they were for a while. You would be hard-pressed to find the connective dramatic tissue between the original film and Rocky IV, with its robots delivering birthday cakes and MTV score and editing. Well, that connective tissue is Rocky III. I talked to Stallone about Rocky III one afternoon and he acknowledged that there’s just something about why Rocky III works so well that he can’t quite explain. I can’t say it’s the best one, but it’s my favorite and if I had to choose only one to watch, it’d be Rocky III, although Rocky Balboa is up there as well. Rocky IV moves away from the dramatic tension contained in the first three to become a full-blown, kinetic, crowd-pleasing experience. It’s a 90-minute music video that is all sensory overload... it’s Montage: The Movie. Some people think Rocky IV is a bad movie. Wrong! It’s a great movie that does exactly what it sets out to do extremely well; it’s just not a great Rocky movie. In many ways it exists in its own universe. Rocky V is an ambitious misfire. It took risks that were admirable, but really misunderstood what audiences wanted. Watching Rocky go from rags to riches only to lose it all was angering for many (myself included). Audiences had traveled too far and invested too much emotion in Rocky Balboa only to see everything stripped away from him. It doesn’t help that the late Tommy Morrison wasn’t a very good actor and that Rocky doesn’t actually box in the film. A street fight set to hip hop is possibly even a bigger departure from the series than anything seen in Rocky IV. But... without Rocky V we don’t get Rocky Balboa and Rocky Balboa is the best, most pure Rocky since the original. This is Stallone hungry and ready to prove himself all over again. There’s a million reasons why Rocky Balboa shouldn’t work and Stallone doesn’t allow any of those to infest his film. Creed is perhaps the most intriguing because it’s not a story created by Stallone (the only instance of that). It’s pretty insane that Creed director Ryan Coogler had the balls to take a character and universe that wasn’t his and, not only want to expand it, but get the creator to go along as a tourist. The thing to know about Sly is that he’s not a passive figure. If you’re a director working with Stallone, you better have a concrete vision with purpose because he’ll eat you up if you don’t. If you’re a director and you know exactly what you want in the film, Sly respects and responds to that. The fact that Coogler even had the courage to push the idea at all was probably one of the things Stallone responded to most. At its core, Creed is just a loose remake of the original, but it’s done with such heart and respect that I think it surprised almost everyone with how great it is, myself included.

Cliff Stephenson & Sylvester Stallone

Coate: What is the legacy of Rocky?

Grindon: Rocky has a rich legacy and certainly no boxing film can be made without looking over its shoulder to Rocky. Even Raging Bull (1980), in my view the greatest of all boxing films, is a reaction to Rocky, the antithesis to the Rocky thesis. There is also the legacy of the low budget, breakthrough “sleeper” hit that Rocky represents. It is a comeback movie, a comeback against the expensive film extravaganza that continues to dominate Hollywood. So that is an important part of its legacy as well. For more of my thoughts on Rocky, see pages 215 to 225 in my book, Knockout: The Boxer and Boxing in American Cinema.

Gross: Its inspirational quality. Whether you want to go the distance, gain the eye of the tiger, or prove that it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, it’s a message that has spanned 40 years and will likely keep on going.

Lichtenfeld: One part of its legacy is all the people it’s inspired. Just think of the ritual of running up those art museum steps. Rocky came out during the centennial year of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s original charter, but, arguably, what Rocky has made people feel made the steps into an even greater institution…. Another big part of its legacy is Sylvester Stallone, just as a big part of his legacy will always be Rocky. The movie may be the ultimate fusion of star, character, and persona — especially considering how Stallone wrote all of the movies and directed most of them…. The legacy of Rocky is also its status as the ultimate underdog story, which is a little ironic since it’s also much more than that. That’s why I think one more part of Rocky’s legacy is — or should be — how it marked a transition between the New Hollywood movies of the 1960s and ‘70s and Star Wars. Star Wars is often seen as “redeeming” the ambiguity, ambivalence, and genre-bending of the New Hollywood movement for mass audiences ready to simply escape and feel good. Rocky has the angst of the former and sends you out of the theater with a feeling of triumph and exultation like the latter. But even Rocky’s triumph is not uncomplicated or pure…. So in a way, I think the legacy of the original Rocky is a lot like the character himself: inherently great but still not often seen for all it really is.

Stephenson: We talk about legacy in terms of “what will this leave behind” but in the case of Rocky, it feels so present still that I don’t even know that legacy is the right word. It’s sort of like Star Wars in that it’s ultimately ascended above legacy to iconography. It isn’t this thing that “was”... it’s just this thing that “is.” Legacy feels like something we remember, but Rocky is still on-going. There’s only been a handful of films throughout the medium that have achieved that level of total icon status. Commercials use the theme to this day. “Yo Adrian” needs no explanation. It joins a short list of films including Psycho, Jaws, Star Wars, Wizard of Oz, The Exorcist, The Godfather, 2001, and a few others that are on a different plane. It sounds silly to position Rocky up against those other titles, until you really stop and think about how ingrained in our society Rocky really is. I don’t even think about it in terms of pop culture, but simply the culture at large…. But I think the real legacy of Rocky is Sylvester Stallone. If Rocky never hit or if Stallone had been tempted by the bigger paycheck he was offered to not star, I think the movies throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s would look very different. 

Coate: Thank you — Leger, Edward, Eric, and Cliff — for participating and sharing your thoughts on Rocky on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

A still from Rocky (1977)

 

SOURCES/REFERENCES

Primary references for this project included promotional material published in numerous daily newspapers archived digitally and/or on microfilm plus articles published in film industry trade publications Billboard, Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety, and the books Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History by Sheldon Hall and Steve Neale (Wayne State University Press, 2010), George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success edited by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson (George Lucas Books/HarperCollins, 2010), and The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits by Susan Sackett (Billboard, 1996),

All figures and data included in this article pertain to the United States and Canada except where stated otherwise.

 

SPECIAL THANKS

Jerry Alexander, Al Alvarez, Jim Barg, Don Beelik, Deb Bier, Laura Blair, Timothy Bulger, Raymond Caple, John Cork, Bill Cronauer, Beth Curran, Kimberly Diebolt, Nick DiMaggio, Heather R. Edwards, Lunden England, Laura Fazekas, Leger Grindon, Edward Gross, Christine Hadlow, Wendy Hall, Kathy Harger, Khalilah Hayes, John Hazelton, Blaine Holloway, Thomas Hutchens, William Inge, Bill Kretzel, Ronald A. Lee, Mark Lensenmayer, Eric Lichtenfeld, Sam Lollar, Stan Malone, Andrew Miller, Alexis Neapolitan, Gabriel Neeb, Tim O’Neill, Edwina Parks, Kristi Robb, Desiree Sharland, Daniel Sheahan, Grant Smith, Tim Spindle, Cliff Stephenson, John Stewart, John Tegel, Mike Thomason, Shannon Tippit, Robert Tucker, Kat Stone Underwood, Troy Valos, Jessica Wakefield, Vince Young, Kellyn Younggren; and to all of the librarians who helped with the research for this project, and to the California State Library and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library and Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study.

A still from Rocky (1977)

 

SELECTED IMAGES

Copyright/courtesy 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, CBS-Fox Home Video, MGM Home Entertainment, United Artists Corporation. Home-video cover-art collage designed by Cliff Stephenson.

 

IN MEMORIAM

  • Harry W. Tetrick (Sound), 1911-1977
  • David Thayer (“Jergens”), 1927-1978
  • Butkus Stallone (“Rocky’s Dog”), 1969-1981
  • Bill Baldwin (“Fight Announcer”), 1913-1982
  • James Crabe (Director of Photography), 1931-1989
  • Joe Spinell (“Gazzo”), 1936-1989
  • Burgess Meredith (“Mickey”), 1907-1997
  • Stu Nahan (“Fight Commentator”), 1926-2007
  • William L. McCaughey (Sound), 1929-2000
  • Lyle J. Burbridge (Sound), 1922-2006
  • Frank Stallone (“Timekeeper”), 1919-2011
  • Joe Frazier (himself), 1944-2011
  • Bert Schoenfeld (Post-Production Sound), 1920-2013
  • B. Eugene Ashbrook (Sound Mixer), 19??-2014
  • Robert Chartoff (Producer), 1933-2015
  • Tony Burton (“Apollo’s Trainer”), 1937-2016
  • Ray Alba (Post-Production Sound), 1926-2016

 

- Michael Coate

Michael Coate can be reached via e-mail through this link.

     Rocky on home video over the years

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